Calling All Nerds!

Even Allie’s grouchy sister agrees, homemade pasta is worth the time.

Have you ever gotten a wild hair and wanted to try your hand at making your own pasta?
If you answered yes to this question….
Welcome home my friend.  You have found your people.  I have been waiting for you.

First things first.  You are going to need a pasta machine.  (If there is a way to do this without a pasta machine, please, educate me.)  Mine was a Christmas gift from my mom who understands the full extent of my food-nerdiness.  There are all kinds out there, electric, manual, attachments to your stand mixer, etc.  Mine is the most basic with a hand crank and a clamp to attach it to a tabletop.  It was imported from Italy.  This is the variety my great-grandmother would have probably used, had she also been a nerd.  The dough will need time to rest in your fridge, so, on the morning the wild hair finds itself in your ass, mix up the ingredients.

Fresh Egg Pasta
½ cup semolina
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs

Put the semolina and the flour into your mixing bowl.  Beat the eggs a bit and then add them in too.
Mix it with the dough hook.  You will see that the dough hook slowly and gradually pulls the dry into the wet.
After a while it will look like this:
And then after a little longer, it will all be incorporated, like this:
Now wrap it in plastic and let it sit in your fridge for an hour or more, so all the ingredients can get to know each other.
Then comes the fun part:  Dust it with flour and divide it into equal portions that are smaller and easier to manage…
Take a piece in your hand and form it into a flat rectangley-shape.
Make sure it is well-floured and pass it through the pasta-maker at the widest setting.  On my machine, the widest setting is zero.
When it comes out, you want to fold it in on itself by thirds, thusly:
Flour the outside again, and then repeat the process twice more.  This will essentially knead the dough and develop the glutens.  That translates into a silky, bouncy, stretchy texture to your final product that is very appealing.  As I’m sure you already know, nerd, I am referring to the mouthfeel.

So now you just want to continue passing the dough through the machine, flouring it and dialing down the thickness with each pass.  Be very conscientious about keeping it well floured, especially before the final, most thin, pass.  If you don’t, it will get ripply and holey and then you will have to start all over with that piece.
If you did it right it should look like this:
Follow these steps with all your dough hunks.  As you complete them, dust them with flour (getting tired of hearing that?) and lay them out in single layers between towels.
They can sit like that for a while (maybe a few hours?).  At this point you can do just about anything you wish with them.  There are endless shapes of pasta and if you are, indeed, a food nerd, then you know what shapes work best with what kinds of sauce.
Sometimes I like to cut it into square sheets, this is called fazzoletti and it means “hankerchief.” Sometimes I like to make ravioli.  I think even non-nerds know what this is so I won’t bother with an explanation… Sometimes I use my pasta-maker’s cutting attachment and make spaghetti or tagliatelle (long, thin, flat noodles).
On this day I decided to make wide ribbons, or pappardelle.
So I folded it all up and cut it with my knife.
Flour the noodles…
And get your salty water on to boil.
Please- make sure you have your table set, your sauce prepared and hot, and your colander waiting in your sink.  Fresh pasta is cooked in a heartbeat.  It takes a fraction of a second to overcook, and then, aside from it being too soft and not al dente, it won’t absorb your delicious sauce so everything will just taste watery and washed out.

Whew!  Ok, I feel better having that off my chest.  So, go ahead and put it in the boiling water and give it a stir.

When it floats to the surface and looks less yellow and more white, it is ready to drain.
Drain it and then put it into your sauce and toss to coat over a low flame.  Dish it out and devour the fruits of your labors.

This is quite an involved process as I’m sure you can see.  Hence the call for nerds.  In my family, it is a fun activity that the kids really get excited about.  Something about turning that crank, I don’t know…  and the pasta is very delicious.  It is definitely a whole different animal than dried pasta.  Anyway, maybe for you it would be a drag but for us it’s a great rainy-day activity!  I guess my kids are already on their way to being food nerds too.

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One thought on “Calling All Nerds!

  1. Just reading a great book “rustic Italian cooking,” by marc vetri, (an amazing local chef). He really knows what’s up when it comes to pasta & he says to just use all purpose flour & maybe a little durum for rolled pasta-no semolina! I always liked my homemade pasta this way but I’m sure there’s probably a better way…I will try his way next time!

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